Bedouinism

Dan Fost writes a good piece about how entreprenuers are using shared office spaces and the local Starbucks to boot strap their businesses.

Malik, for instance, swears by his Starbucks. (He doesn’t want to say where it is, for fear that publicists from the companies he covers will stake him out there and ruin the experience.) “The biggest day of my own little boy life was when my own local Starbucks made me ‘customer of the week,’ ” Malik said. “That’s a Web worker gold medal.”

Om’s not kidding, I’ve met him at “his Starbucks” and it’s like he’s in his living room. He walks up to the counter, nods and gets a refill. It’s hilarious. The other, and very serious, point about this method of co-opting office space is that there is a tremendous potential for synergy with other like minded entrepreneurs who have everything to gain by working with other people.

“I’m looking around and there’s gotta be 50 people with laptops,” said Brett Levine, 31, a co-founder and the company’s lead programmer. “I got on a chair and yelled, ‘Hey, are there any ActionScript programmers in the room?’ People at the counter looked at me glaringly, but a couple of people looked around and raised their hand.”

This is just one more way that Silicon Valley is just different than the rest of the world and continues to evolve. Personally, I love visiting companies that are in shared offices, the pitch and tenor in the space is energetic and it something I wish we had in our offices.

One of the most consequential things my company did, before I joined, was to commit to a lot of office space in a really dead part of Santa Clara. You should never go for more space than your growth will accomodate because putting a small number of people in a large space is just demoralizing. Also, locate your company in the middle of a cluster of companies so that you can have an advantage when recruiting. Startups need a heartbeat and that pulse comes from the activities in the immediate vicinity as well as what the small team is doing itself. I struggle with this and am always looking for suggestions about how we can liven things up at our place so if you have any ideas, please email me or post a comment

Lastly, I give credit to Greg Olsen for coining the term “Going Bedouin” in a Feb 2006 blog post with that title.

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